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Appeals court OKs NYC’s test of ’e-hailing’ taxis

Created: 10/29/2013 3:05 PM KSTP.com

(AP) NEW YORK - New York City’s experiment with taxi-hailing smartphone apps got a green light Tuesday from an appeals court.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division said the city can continue a yearlong test of "e-hail" services, one of several recent changes to the taxi network in a city known for its yellow cabs.

The test "was properly adopted" and allowable under city laws, the court said to cheers from the city administration.

"New York City has always been a taxi-hailing town, and we’re pleased to be able to offer passengers more than one way to accomplish that," city Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said in a statement.

A lawyer for e-hail opponents didn’t immediately return a call about the ruling, which upheld a lower court decision.

Traditionally, the city’s roughly 13,000 yellow cabs have been prohibited from taking pre-arranged rides. But the taxi commission OK’d the e-hail experiment in December, saying that the city shouldn’t turn its back on new taxi technology.

Car service owners sued. They said that the project was unfair because they rely on pre-arranged fares and that it was too broad to qualify as a test, among other arguments.

With the appeals court’s OK, a few companies started offering the service while the appeal played out.

Some cabbies are finding e-hailing useful to connect with passengers late at night and outside Manhattan, said Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group representing fleet owners with a total of more than 5,200 cabs. The association joined the lawsuit to support e-hailing.

"It’s something that our drivers are learning how to best utilize," Woloz said by phone.

During nearly 12 years in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has driven a number of changes to the city’s taxi system. Several have spurred lawsuits.

This month, a court blocked a plan to transform the fleet with a minivan-style "Taxi of Tomorrow," three weeks before it was to start taking effect. The city is appealing that ruling.

In June, the state’s highest court said the city could proceed with another change: letting livery cab drivers pick up passengers who hail them on streets in much of the city.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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